Vincent van Gogh - The Road Menders 1889

The Road Menders 1889
The Road Menders
Oil on canvas 73.4 x 91.8 cm. Saint-Rémy: November, 1889
Cleveland: The Cleveland Museum of Art

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From The Cleveland Museum of Art:
In May 1889, Van Gogh voluntarily committed himself to an asylum near the small town of Saint-Rémy in Provence. His doctors soon gave him permission to paint on day excursions to surrounding fields. While walking through Saint-Rémy that November, he was impressed by the sight of men repairing a road beneath immense plane trees. "In spite of the cold," he wrote to his brother, "I have gone on working outside till now, and I think it is doing me good and the work too." Rushing to capture the yellowing leaves, he painted this composition on an unusual cloth with a pattern of small red diamonds visible in the picture's many unpainted areas.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Joseph Roulin to Vincent van Gogh. Marseille, Wednesday, 22 May 1889.
My dear Mr Vincent,
I have just returned from Lambesc to see the family. I hasten to tell you that I found them all in good health. My wife is very well, Armand, our blacksmith, I have realized by myself that he has been striking the iron hard, his bosses are very pleased with him. Camille had his first communion last Sunday, and I gave them the pleasant surprise of arriving on Monday evening at 6 o’clock. Beautiful Marcelle is still doing well, she has two teeth, she is an extraordinary little one, very well-behaved, she has everything in her favour, only when I arrived she didn’t want to see me. It was only when I left that she really looked at me and pulled my beard a little. I am very satisfied with my journey, one must hope that we shall all be reunited in Marseille at Michaelmas, for I have rented an apartment for that period. I arrived Tuesday evening at midnight in Marseille. When I got up this morning, Wednesday, my landlady handed me your letter, which satisfied me to learn that you had left Arles to go to St-Rémy of your own accord. Continue your paintings, you are in a beautiful part of the world, the countryside is very beautiful, the soil is very well worked, you will find a great change in the farming down there, you will not find gardens that look like cemeteries, as in Arles. Continue to take good care of yourself, follow properly the good advice which will be given to you by the good Doctor who is attached to the establishment. I have great confidence that your health will be completely restored, with the good will that you have you will succeed in doing very fine paintings, you live in the garden of the Bouches du Rhône, you will not lack for models made by nature, continue and be of good heart.
We talked at length about you with my wife on the subject of my last journey to Arles. When I write to her that I have received one of your letters that will give her great pleasure. This very day I am going to tell her about it.
Please, Mr Vincent, accept my regards as well as those of my family, and a caress from Marcelle who, thanks to you, can say hello to my Portrait evening and morning, for they are hanging in the alcove where she sleeps, she rests in peace under the benevolent gaze of both the wife and the Father.
I shake both your hands affectionately.
Your entirely devoted

Railway postman rue Breteuil No. 57 Marseille

My regards to your esteemed brother when you write to him.